Good news and bad news for Ford performance fans was announced today, with Ford Australia revealing they will return the Falcon XR8 to the local model range next year, but the FPV lineup will be retired at the same time.
The return of the XR8, after an absence of more than three years, is timed to coincide with the 2014 FGII/FH Falcon upgrade and similar refresh for the Territory SUV.
Powerplant for the revived Falcon XR8 will most likely be the locally-modified ‘Miami’ version of Ford’s ‘Coyote’ V8. Currently offered in supercharged form in the FPV range, it’s expected the 5.0-litre bent eight will be detuned, or offered without a supercharger, for the XR8.
The return of the XR8 comes after Ford Australia announced this past May that they would close their Broadmeadows and Geelong factories in October, 2016, becoming an import-only company.
“We have received a lot of interest and continued requests from Falcon fans to bring back the XR8,” said Ford Australia Vice President of Marketing, Sales and Service Graeme Whickman.
“Re-introducing the XR8 sedan, packaged in our updated Falcon, will make our renowned locally-engineered and manufactured V8 engine available to a broader group of people.”
As the Falcon XR8 returns to the Ford range, the Ford Performance Vehicles (FPV) range, including the high-performance GT, will retire. Ford Australia says they have planned a series of actions during 2014 to ensure the final FPV models celebrate the brand’s iconic status. Further details will be provided at a later date.
“FPV has been very successful for the last 12 years and our relationship with Tickford for many years before that,” said Whickman.
“We appreciate all of the great team members, dealers, customers and fans who have supported FPV through its history. We look forward to sharing further details of the final FPV models and the new XR8 over the coming months.”
THE Holden V8 is set to disappear from showrooms for the first time since 1968. And the new Holden Commodore - if it gets built - will be a front-wheel-drive car with about as much pizzazz as a Toyota Camry.
A confidential South Australian Government report into Holden's manufacturing future - leaked to The Adelaide Advertiser - makes grim reading for Holden fans.
It says the company is not likely to have a rear-wheel-drive car - and therefore a V8 - beyond 2016, or 2018 at a stretch.
"The true impact of not retaining this offering is not clear. However GMH is likely to experience some sales erosion sand migration to other brands," said the report prepared by University of Adelaide Professor Goran Roos for the SA Government.
When the Falcon and its performance models bow out in 2016, Ford will import the Mustang coupe from the US to appeal to the enthusiast market.
"The next gen model mix also excludes the ute variant," the report said, confirming a News Corp Australia exclusive from a fortnight ago.
If Holden keeps making cars in Australia from 2016 to 2022 it will be the first time since the first ever Holden - the 1948 "FX" - that its flagship model will be front-wheel-drive.
The front-wheel-drive car that Holden says it will call the "Commodore" will be made with mostly imported parts, the report says, putting further pressure on local parts suppliers.
That in turn is expected to force Toyota Australia's hand with a factory closure in 2017, a year after Holden and when the Camry model cycle is due to come to an end.
Retiring at 65: Plunging sales mean the Holden ute is reaching the end of the line
THE homegrown Holden ute is about to be retired forever, after clocking up almost 65 years on Australian roads.
The Aussie icon has had its sales - and hopes - crushed by a flood of pick-ups imported from Thailand.
One in five of all new vehicles sold so far this year comes from Thailand, second only to Japan.
Australian-made cars now account for less than one in 10 of all new vehicle deliveries; local production is at its lowest level since 1957.
Enthusiast buyers have less than three years to decide if they want a new Holden ute before it is relegated to the history books alongside arch rival Ford's Falcon ute by the end of 2016.
The end of an era means the Holden Commodore ute will likely reach cult status.
One of the classics: The 1980 Holden Ute
When the Kingswood "one-tonner" ute eventually went out of production in 1984 and wasn't immediately replaced (a Commodore ute didn't surface until 1990) its resale values skyrocketed.
Holden would not comment on the future or the fate of the Commodore ute.
But News Corp Australia has been told that if Holden continues manufacturing beyond 2016 it will adopt two new "global" cars, one of which is a large front-wheel-drive sedan that will not be made into a ute.
Holden's US police car export program could have given the Commodore ute a stay of execution because it shares its core underbody structure with the Caprice.
But ute sales are now so low Holden bosses are poised to euthanize it.
Dream drive: The ever-popular EH ute.
Holden Commodore ute sales are down by a staggering 31 per cent year-to-date, the lowest sales of all time. The sedan and wagon are up 15 per cent since the new Commodore arrived.
Holden cannot justify the investment in a new Commodore ute because buyers have shifted to Toyota HiLux-style pick-ups - most of which are made in Thailand, where production labour rates are one-fifth of Australia's.
Adding salt to the wound, Australia has a free-trade agreement with Thailand and vehicles imported from the kingdom have attracted a zero per cent tariff since 2010.
The result has been catastrophic for local car manufacturers but the homegrown utes have been hit hardest.
More than 100,000 4WD pick-ups from Thailand have been sold in Australia in the first nine months of this year alone, compared to just 4100 Commodore utes and 3500 Falcon utes.
he original FX Holden Ute.
At their peak in 2004, Holden and Ford sold more than 20,000 utes each.
The Toyota HiLux was the second best-selling vehicle in Australia last year with more than 40,000 deliveries - after leading the entire new-car market on six individual months.
So far this year the Toyota HiLux is the third bestseller - behind the Toyota Corolla and Mazda3 small cars - but three other pick-ups regularly appear in the Top 10 (Nissan Navara, Ford Ranger, Holden Colorado).
It's not just the mining boom driving sales; about half of all imported utes are bought by small businesses and private buyers.
"We've seen orders more than triple in the past five years," said Abe Tomas, managing director of Fleet and Financial Products at Macmillan Shakespeare, one of Australia's largest car leasing companies.
"A lot of companies are now using crew cab utes to replace station wagons. But they're also popular with private buyers because they're part 4WD, part family car and part ute. They're more of a lifestyle vehicles these days."
Holden built a four-door ute called the Crewman in 2004 to try to compete with imports, but the model was axed in 2006 because of weak sales.
The market had already shifted towards roomier, diesel-powered imported crew cab utes.
Holden enthusiast Craig Williams, of Gumeracha, said he and wife Carmella were "really disappointed" future generations would not be able to buy a new Holden ute.
"It is really sad because it's a bit of an Aussie icon," Mr Williams said.
"There's too many brands out there to choose from and there's no real loyalty to stick to the old school Holden's anymore.
"It's really disappointing."
Mr Williams, who already owns a VY Storm and a '69 Camaro, said the couple had not yet decided if they would buy another to add to the collection before they are discontinued.
"It would be nice to be able to get one," he said.
One would expect a classic car auction in Australia – particularly one scheduled to coincide with what is supposed to be Australia’s premier collector car weekend – to feature more than a couple of Holdens or other exclusive-to-Oz cars. Then again, of the two Holdens crossing the block at the Theodore Bruce auction later this month in Melbourne, one lays claim to being the first and oldest surviving Australian-built example of the brand and the first car that Australians could rightfully pronounce their own.
Holden didn’t just appear from thin air with the introduction of its first model, the 48-215, in 1948. Rather, the company, which itself dates back to the 1850s, began building car bodies for a number of companies during World War I, and merged with General Motors in 1931. Toward the end of World War II, the Australian government realized the country needed an automotive industry of its own and declared that if no auto company then operating in the country could provide an Australian-built car, then the Australian government would do so itself. As Ken Gross told the tale in Special Interest Autos #49, February 1979, Holden’s managing director at the time, Laurence Hartnett, took that proclamation as a challenge.
“Building a complete car wasn’t a problem for GM-H,” Hartnett told Gross. “After the many types of war materials we’d produced, automotive technology was comparatively simple. Besides, even before the war, we’d made most of the components ourselves.” In addition, Holden had a new factory at Fisherman’s Bend near Melbourne and a friend in the government willing to prod the project along – future Prime Minister Ben Chifley. All Hartnett needed was a car to build, which he found gathering dust in Detroit.
Built before the war, prototype 195-Y-15 had come out of GM’s Light Car Project, which GM had all but forgotten over the prior eight years. Hartnett seemed to appreciate its unit-body design and small six-cylinder engine, and discovered that it met all of his requirements for an Australian car, so he had three running and driving cars based on the Light Car built in Detroit. At the same time, he assembled a team of engineers and shipped the three prototypes and the engineers to Australia to finalize the car’s design and to adapt it to Australian roads.
Once back at Fisherman’s Bend in late 1946, Harnett and his team began testing and refining the three prototypes. The next year, they built two more prototypes, commonly referred to as Number Four and Number Five, neither of which bore any Holden badging because the brand name for GM’s Australian car wouldn’t be decided upon until shortly before the introduction of the 48-215 in November 1948. The latter has since been destroyed – as have two of the first three prototypes – leaving Number One, with the registration plate ZW-234 (now owned by the National Museum of Australia), and Number Four, with the registration plate of KJ-400. Powered by a 132.5-cu.in. overhead-valve six-cylinder engine, KJ-400 weighed about 2,250 pounds and rode a 103-inch wheelbase.
KJ-400 reportedly posed for the first press photos and later underwent a restoration by one of the engineers involved in building it, at which time it apparently gained its Holden badging. Don Loffler’s book, Still Holden Together, noted that Holden sold KJ-400 to an employee in 1951 and that the car was eventually traded in on a new vehicle in the late 1950s at a dealership in Melbourne. For years it was mistakenly considered to be Number One, Loffler wrote, and not until the late 1990s was the record set straight.
Current owner Peter Briggs bought KJ-400 in 1980 and offered it for sale a couple of years ago during a downsizing. At the time, the Australian reported that he believed it worth as much as AUS$2 million. The Theodore Bruce auction, to take place October 26 in conjunction with the Motorclassica show in Melbourne, has not released a pre-auction estimate for the car.